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Media: How SchoolBook Aims To Get More Folks Involved

Paper-Rhino Everybody who creates an education site wants super active readers and commenters, but not everybody knows how to get and keep them (or how to get them to do anything more than comment randomly). One of the most interesting things that SchoolBook is going to do to address this challenge is make use of a database of commenter/experts created by Minnesota Public Radio / American Public Media.  Another strategy they're planning on using is to get folks involved via text and cell phone voicemail messages, not just smartphone and Internet-based interactivity, since many folks (esp. low-income and immigrant) rely on regular cell phones.  Read below for some more details based on a phone conversation with WNYC's John Keefe.

WNYC has been working with APM's 100,000-member Public Insight service for about a year,  and aims to make it a big part of its new education site, SchoolBook.  Put simply, Public Insight is an effort to create relationships with regular people -- not necessarily listeners/readers -- beyond the usual one-off journalist-source relationship.  How it works, according to WNYC's John Keefe, is that it sends an email or text to folks who've signed up when there's a story coming up about a topic they know or about a neighborhood they live or work in.  (When you sign up, you're asked where you live and "What do you know more about than most people you know?"). Then responses come in and reporters use these insights as part of their reporting or even in their stories, depending on privacy settings determined by the user/source/amateur journalist.  Each newsroom or outlet that has joined the APM effort recruits people differently -- on air, online, or (this is what WNYC is doing) via signups at real live community events.  Scroll to the bottom to see some of the recent queries that have been sent out, some of which involve education.

Another things that WNYC is going to do is to make it so that commenters will be able to have their comments show up in more than one place -- in a discussion about a particular school, for example, as well as a discussion about a related issue.  They'll also be identified by school and role (parent, educator, etc.)  No badges, however. And to make sure that they don't roll out 2,500 school profile pages and have most of them end up empty of activity, they're going to focus on a handful of schools this fall, both piloting and priming the site for expanded discussions on other school pages. No word on exactly what set of schools they're focusing on, or a list, but I got the sense that they'd already decided on a kind of school and a distribution across the city.

Last but not least, they're not going to rely on folks weighing in via smartphone or the Internet.  Instead, they're going to use both texting and invitations to call and leave short voice messages for reporters and/or broadcast.  The platform is called mobilecommons and if text in or respond to an invitation to weigh in then you can get a call and leave a voicemail message -- no call-in required.  The texts and calls are transcribed and delivered to the reporters and producers for use.  Apparently WNYC used this to great effect a little while ago when the primary ballots were messed up, and it's also been used on other sites like racialicious.  

Previous post on this is here.  



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APM What are the hidden stories of the Philippines?   08/09/2011
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APMG Why are you at the library today -- in person or online?   07/20/2011
MSMAGAZINE What feminist issues and ideas are on your mind?   07/06/2011
MOTHERJONES For Profit Schools: What's Your Experience?   06/24/2011
APM What story in your community deserves more attention?   06/10/2011
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MSMAGAZINE Would your rape count?   06/09/2011
APM Be a source for the Marketplace Tech Report   06/09/2011
MOTHERJONES Would your town let a man drown because of budget cuts?   06/07/2011
CPI Tell us your credit-related horror story   06/07/2011
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MOTHERJONES Update your email address   06/01/2011
FREESPEECH Help us cover this story   06/01/2011
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FREESPEECH Update your email address   06/01/2011
MOTHERJONES Has your workload increased?   06/01/2011
PROPUBLICA Help us cover the criminal justice system   06/01/2011
PROPUBLICA Worked with disabled borrowers with student debt?   06/01/2011
MSMAGAZINE Update your email address   06/01/2011
MSMAGAZINE If you're transgender, what did 2010 mean to you?   06/01/2011
PROPUBLICA Help Us Cover the Alaska Native Corporations   06/01/2011
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ARW ARW Bankruptcy 2   06/01/2011
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MSMAGAZINE Crisis Pregnancy Centers   05/16/2011
APM How well is Medicare working?   05/05/2011
APMG What's your story one year after the BP spill?   04/12/2011
CIR Are you concerned about the seismic safety of your child's school?   04/06/2011



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